A new petition opposing state involvement in the regulation of the press was launched this afternoon.
It comes in response to a petition by the Hacked Off group calling for the Government to implement the recommendations put forward by Lord Justice Leveson in his report last week.
The Hacked Off petition has so far been signed 131,589 times, though questions were raised over the weekend as to how the group was verifying the signatures (the petition asks only for a name and email address).
In response to those criticisms Hacked Off said: “A continuous process of verification is under way and false or repeat signatures, where found, are removed from the total number given on the website. We have uncovered very little evidence of such abuses.”
A separate petition on the Government’s e-petition website has 4,932 signatures.
The latest petition backing Prime Minister David Cameron’s misgivings over backing statutory underpinning to press regulation has been signed by 28 people.
This petition aims to preserve a free press in this country. Already, as many editors have noted, the Leveson enquiry has had a chilling effect on press freedom.
True, the press sometimes abuse their freedom. We need a better way of curbing press excesses. We need a tougher code of practice, with a 'rapid right of reply' to incorrect or libellous articles, and arbitration.
Any new body to control the press must not be run by the press - but by independent people. .
We have existing laws to protect privacy and reputation. These must be enforced, e.g. the police were at fault for not prosecuting phone hacking.
Many demands for government control of the press come from the rich, who use PR to promote themselves, but object when others come up with facts that contradict their image.
It would be wrong to introduce statutory control of the press in response to the demands of celebrities like Hugh Grant and Max Mosley.